Motorsport Australia: Targa Tasmania ‘worth protecting’

The 2021 Targa Tasmania event involved two fatal accidents

Motorsport Australia CEO Eugene Arocca believes that Targa Tasmania is “worth protecting” as the state Coroner prepares to investigate the fatalities which occurred at this year’s event.

The governing body today released the Investigatory Tribunal report into those three deaths, which has been provided to the Tasmanian Coroner, Tasmania Police, and other key stakeholders.

The Tribunal looked at the circumstances of two fatal crashes which occurred in consecutive days and claimed the lives of drivers Shane Navin and Leigh Mundy, and the latter’s co-driver, Dennis Neagle.

All up, 23 recommendations were made, all of which have been accepted by the Motorsport Australia Board and will be implemented at future tarmac rallies by no later than March 1, 2022.

That the Coroner is yet to conduct its own inquest does raise the possibility that the Tasmanian Government might impose restrictions which go beyond those recommendations.

Asked about that by, Arocca pointed to how thorough the Tribunal report is, and how co-operative Motorsport Australia and government authorities have been during the process.

“I’ve been fortunate enough over 40 years to have been involved in the law, and this is as thorough and detailed a report of inquiry into these matters, as I’ve seen,” he said.

“I am hoping and I would expect that having provided them to the Police – who have already acknowledged receipt – and to the Coroner – who was waiting for this investigation report – that it will inform the Coroner and the Police as to what we intend to do.

“Our commitment to ensure that those recommendations are in place will hopefully be a matter for the Coroner to consider what steps he may wish to take in relation to what happened.

“But, I would think there’s an overwhelming view both within Motorsport Australia and outside of Motorsport Australia that this is an event worth working and protecting and preserving and improving.

“So, what the Coroner and the Police do will be up to them, but they have now been given, in my opinion, a very comprehensive report that has given them insight into what happened and how we can avoid it in the future.

“I think that will go a long way towards hopefully influencing the outcome of those investigations.”

The Tribunal was comprised of three highly credentialled members of Australian motorsport, namely Garry Connelly AM, Matt Selley, and Neal Bates.

Connelly is the chair of the Australian Institute of Motorsport Safety and a Formula 1 steward; Selley is a lawyer, Supercars steward, and former rally competitor, and Bates won Targa Tasmania in 1995 as well as four Australian Rally Championship titles.

According to Arocca, both the Police and Coroner have thus far simply acknowledged receipt of the Tribunal’s report.

“We contacted the Coroner and the Police before the report, we indicated we were going to prepare a report, and the Coroner actually gave us access to the cars for our inspectors to investigate,” he noted.

“So, we’ve been working very cooperatively with the Police in both incidents, and I’ve already had the report acknowledged by one of the investigating officers and I’ve been in communication with the Coroners Court in the last 24 hours.

“I haven’t heard anything since other than an acknowledgement of receipt, and I don’t expect to get anything in the short term from either the Police or the Coroner as far as the actual report [is concerned].

“My experience was suggested if they need anything, they’ll know where to come because we’ve been very open, transparent and engaged with the Police and the Coroners Court since this incident occurred.”

Among the recommendations from the Tribunal are:

  • Route design such that speeds above 200km/h cannot be achieved, or use of a speed limiting system/device
  • That no stage should be permitted to have an average speed exceeding 132km/h
  • Variation of routes from year to year to reduce the chance of complacency
  • Pre-event education campaigns to make competitors aware of vehicles/vehicle set-ups which are not fit for the purpose of tarmac rally competition
  • Sporting regulations which allow for change to/from wet tyres without penalty
  • A tiered driver licencing system
  • That crews in unrestricted categories be made to conduct reconnaissance, or be transferred to a speed limited category

Targa Australia responded to the report with a statement which it released earlier today.

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